Sunday 25 January 2015

Not good enough: Spanish government refuses to accept art in lieu of tax in 2014 on quality grounds

The UK has a longstanding tradition of accepting artwork in lieu of tax. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme allows taxpayers to give artwork instead of cash to pay inheritance tax, and the Cultural Gifts Scheme gives breaks on income tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax to those who make lifetime donations of artworks to the nation. The Acceptance in Lieu report for 2014 says that tax of £167 million was foregone in exchange for artworks over the past ten years, £30 million of which relates to 2013-14.

But it is not just the UK which operates such a scheme. The Spanish government too accepts art in lieu of tax – just not last year.

Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Dora Maar, now in the
Reina Sofia in Madrid, was given in lieu of tax
by Spanish bank Caja Madrid in 2005
The Art Newspaper (TAN) reports that in 2014, Spain did not accept any artworks offered in lieu of tax “because the administration did not consider the works submitted as payment to have any artistic value or historic interest to public collections”.

TAN also notes that many of the works submitted in lieu of tax in past years were presented by corporates and banks, in contract to the position in the UK where corporates have only recently been able to make use of such schemes (they can obtain tax breaks under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, which has been in operation only since 2013).

In the absence of any more masterpieces in the basement, it looks as though some Spanish companies may need to start paying tax in the old-fashioned way – in cash. 

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